Rockies Prospects: Regarding pitching depth, grass is green but not ready to cut

Denis Poroy

Pitching depth in the organization runs deep, but it's not ready to cultivate. Jeff Manship's start on Tuesday represents the level of talent currently available, but there are other pitchers, just under the surface, ready to contribute next season. Also stats on all the 2013 draft picks, and DSL catcher Hamlet Marte has serious power.

Tuesday's start by Jeff Manship revealed a weakness in the Rockies upper minors, where a dearth of MLB-ready pitchers forced the front office to promote the former Minnesota Twin and give him two spot starts in the wake of Tyler Chatwood's strained right elbow.

Used primarily as a reliever in Minnesota, Manship had a 6.20 ERA in his time for the Twin Cities. The Notre Dame alum had been pitching well in the Springs, earning an outstanding Game Score of 80 in his last Triple-A outing -- one in which he pitched seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits and striking out seven batters.

An article by David Martin of Rockies Review questions the pitching depth within the Rockies system and makes a valid point about the lack of quality pitchers the Rockies have to choose from at this point in the season.

Part of the problem with the rotation was how thin it was to start the year and now with Tyler Chatwood and Chad Bettis having already forged a path into the starting five, it leaves few options at the upper levels. The other main issue is the injury bug has bit the Rockies at the Triple-A level.

Triple-A Options

The Rockies' first-round pick in 2008, Christian Friedrich was baptized by fire in his rookie season last year. This season the lefty was supposed to build upon a few starts in Colorado Springs before getting a chance to compete for a starting role in the rotation, instead he's on the shelf for the year with a strained back.

A few seasons ago, left-handed starter Edwar Cabrera led the entire minor leagues in strikeouts. Demonstrating a big league changeup with a penchant for allowing home runs, the Dominican had two spot starts for the Rockies in 2012 before finishing strong in Triple-A Colorado Springs. This year was intended for Edwar to build upon a solid foundation in Triple-A before filling in when the rotation lost a player to injury. Instead, Edwar was placed on the 60-day disabled list in February with a shoulder impingement and was shut down for the season after a throwing session in April.

Both Cabrera and Friedrich gave the Rockies the best prospect depth going into this season, but their injuries have forced the team to use Manship, Jon Garland and Collin McHugh. The other issue has been the disappointing progress of Drew Pomeranz. One of the minor league leaders in strikeouts this season, Pomeranz has failed to translate that success to the major league level and perhaps an injured biceps muscle is the cause. The left-hander was placed on the 15-day disabled list in July due to the ailment.

So what's next for the Rockies? Who do they have left after the Manship sails into the sunset? There's not much to get excited about in Triple-A Colorado Springs. Chris Volstad has a strikeout rate of 3.7 K/9, Aaron Cook has been shut down for the year and Armando Galarraga owns a 7.24 ERA.

Double-A Options

Tulsa has some prospects with Tyler Matzek and Christian Bergman having the most Double-A seasoning. Matzek is a solid prospect and could potentially make an impact in the Rockies rotation someday. However, the left-hander has struggled to command his stuff and show the ability to dominate Texas League hitters. The Rockies' first-round pick in 2009 has seen his strikeout rate drop every season since 2011 as he's worked to limit his walks. His walk rates and ERA have also dropped, showing that Tyler is becoming a better pitcher, but it's not the dominant effort that we expected from the hype that followed the California native when he was first drafted.

Christian Bergman is a solid pitcher. In fact, he was named the California League Pitcher of the Year last season. None of Bergman's stuff is dominant, but with a low-90's fastball and a solid changeup, the UC Irvine alum is smart in the way he attacks hitters and has a well-rounded approach. The right-hander's lack of velocity -- and the fact that he lacks a high-round pedigree (he was drafted in the 24th round) -- means he needs a good year in Triple-A next season before the Rockies will be convinced he's ready to pitch in Coors Field.

Other Options

That leaves us with just two pitchers who could potentially make the jump to the Rockies' rotation and I think both are ready now, but probably won't get the opportunity until early next season. Eddie Butler and Jonathan Gray have become the stars of this Rockies system. Both have shown dominant performances at each level they've pitched at and have the pitching repertoire to make scouts drool.

Butler was named this week to Carson Cistulli's Fringe Five, a weekly report that uses regressed stats, reports and the author's own heart to determine the top prospects outside of the Top 100 lists. It includes a GIF of Butler demonstrating his nasty changeup which tails away from left-handed batters.

"One would be excused, based on Butler's performance in the Futures Game last month, for assuming that the right-hander had recorded a strikeout rate in the minor leagues of either 100% or pretty close to 100%. In fact, that appears not to be the case, at all, despite a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and an excellent changeup." --Carson Cistulli

It's nice to finally see a draft pick who lives up to the hype and the front office certainly made the right choice with Gray. At this point in the season however, the Rockies are unlikely to move Gray to Colorado due to his excess innings thrown at Oklahoma this season. It's more likely that Gray will start in Tulsa next season and given an early shot once a spot in the rotation opens up.

Wild cards for next season include guys like Daniel Winkler and Tyler Anderson, pitchers with varying pedigrees and quality stuff. Winkler is leading the minor leagues in strikeouts and received a mid-season promotion to Tulsa after dominating with a 2.97 ERA at High-A Modesto. The Central Florida product has performed well in his short stint in Tulsa with a 3.38 ERA in two starts, although his strikeouts have fallen off a little. Tyler Anderson is the other possibility for next season, though he's taken a hit with injuries this year. Originally expected to move through the system quickly, the Oregon alum faces some of the same velo issues that plague Bergman, except Tyler is left-handed and has a deceptive delivery paired with a wicked curveball.

So for the time being, the well is fairly dry when it comes to upper-level pitchers in the Rox organization. Unless the front office is willing to take a leap with Eddie Butler, there aren't many options left to turn to. The Rockies need players like Chatwood and Roy Oswalt to get a clean bill of health in order to shore up the rotation.

Rookie Stats

Kudos to Darren Willman for creating a website called MLBfarm.com that collaborates all of the players from the 2013 draft into a table which shows their current stats by team. Below is a sample of the stats that Darren has put together for the Rockies draft picks this season:

Hitters

Rnd

Name

AB

HR

Avg

OPS

2

Ryan McMahon

150

5

0.293

0.902

4

Jordan Patterson

145

9

0.303

0.927

6

Dom Nunez

129

3

0.178

0.598

8

Terry McClure

82

0

0.280

0.741

9

Patrick Valaika

88

1

0.250

0.779

10

Michael Tauchman

177

0

0.311

0.789

11

Sean Dwyer

141

1

0.262

0.719

13

Michael Benjamin

153

0

0.255

0.687

31

Wesley Jones

36

0

0.139

0.399

39

Cole Norton

66

1

0.258

0.791

Pitchers

Rnd

Name

IP

BB

SO

ERA

1

Jonathan Gray

27.1

7

33

2.30

2B

Alex Balog

5.0

3

2

14.40

3

Sam Moll

23.2

9

23

2.28

5

Blake Shouse

16.2

12

6

10.26

7

Konner Wade

43.0

8

27

5.23

12

William Waltrip

14.0

10

17

8.36

14

Dylan Stamey

20.2

4

16

1.31

15

John Beck

1.0

0

1

0.00

17

Trent Daniel

17.2

14

19

0.00

18

Jacob Newberry

20.2

9

27

3.48

19

Scott Firth

20.1

6

17

2.66

21

Eric Nedeljkovic

4.2

4

2

7.71

23

Jerad McCrummen

20.0

4

16

2.25

26

Matt Pierpont

14.1

6

16

3.14

27

Daniel Palo

22.0

10

18

4.91

Power in the Dominican

Dominican League hitter Hamlet Marte is reaching some rarified air with his seven home runs for the DSL Rockies. The first baseman ranks second in the DSL in long balls and is one of the youngest leaders in OPS for the league. The 19-year-old slugger is listed at 5'10, 180 pounds, and his home run output is the best by a DSL Rockie since 2006, when Leonel Lopez hit seven while batting .220. That same year, Wilin Rosario hit three as the starting catcher while posting a .249 average.

It's rare for a player in the DSL to demonstrate the ability to hit with power or average, so it's exciting to see Marte doing both. Hamlet's .304 average puts him in territory that has been explored by just a few Rockies recently, including Raimel Tapia, Miguel Dilone and Jose Briceno.

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